One-Shots in Special Collections and Archives: Moving from Gatekeeper to Guide

Colleen Hoelscher


Instruction in special collections and archives spaces has evolved from the once ubiquitous show-and-tell sessions, but it remains reliant on the one-shot model where classes visit the reading room to work with primary source material in a standalone session. As Nicole Pagowsky points out, “One-shots are transactional; content is requested and then deposited into student’ minds…” In special collections, this content takes the form of preselected rare books and manuscripts on a given topic, with which students interact for an hour or so before continuing on with their semester. These sessions, particularly at smaller institutions, are often limited by the breadth of the repository’s collections, which may have only a tenuous connection to course assignments and learning objectives.

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